If EVIL Wanted Your Soul, Would You Choose An Eternal Damnation with the Promise of Having Everything You Ever Wanted, or Would You Simply Decline to Live What’s Left of Your Meager Existence? “Val” reviewed! (Epic Pictures / Blu-ray)

“Val” is now available on Blu-ray and Prime Video! Check it out on Amazon.com

When Fin, a criminal on the run after a misfortunate mishap of possibly having killed his boss, breaks into a high-end prostitute’s mansion home in an attempt to escape police pursuit, he finds himself struggling to stay in control when the wound on his head causes him dizziness, vomiting, and a thin thread of consciousness.  His whore hostage helps him evade police capture, conceals her dead client he inadvertently kills, and also dresses up his wounds after he passes out.  Confused by her benevolence, Fin attempts to regain control of his authority over the sexually elegant and smooth talking dressed woman, but as the night progresses and strange, unexplainable occurrences warp his reality, he quickly learns his hostage is more just a simple high class working girl and her house is her domain of deviltry. 

Not to be confused with the extraordinary life of actor Val Kilmer documentary of the same name also released in 2021, “Val” is the that other 2021 released film, an independent horror-comedy from writer-director Aaron Fradkin and co-written with writing partner and fiancé (or maybe wife now at this point), Victoria Fratz.  While one “Val” may be more of a commercial success than the other, Fradkin and Fratz’s “Val” still has equal parts charisma and style with solid performances in a “Bedazzled” like tale where a down on his luck Joe Schmo meets a sultry Netherworld deal maker dangling his very soul delicately in the balance of his existence  Shot in a supposed haunted, Gothically styled mansion located in Ojai, California, “Val” is produced by Jonathan Carkeek, Paul Kim, Jeremy Meyer, Kevin McDevitt, and Caitlin O’Connor with Victoria Fratz serving as executive producer under the couple’s Fradkin and Fratz production banner, Social House Films. 

The titular character Val is short for Valefor, the grand Duke of Hell with a penchant for collecting human souls to adorn as treasure, at least to the trolls scribing world wide web, underworld mythology. A trickster, a showboat, and a psychic-vampire, Valefor is characteristically mirrored to the milli-fiber of wickedness by actress Misha Reeves who’s able to adapt her demonic namesake for a new lease on celluloid life. However, one aspect of Valefor is quite different. Val’s appearance is anything but a monstrosity; instead, Reeves radiates beautiful as a pinup girl complete with stark colored makeup and professionally styled hair in victory rolls and soft curls for a throwback 1940’s impression in a complete about face of Valefor’s traditional animalistic Lion or Donkey head look. There’s also the fact that the cinematic Val bares no wings, no tail, no fur, and no scales as usually illustrated – again, by the dark forces of the internet’s most untanned. Reeves offers up, again, the pinup-esque sex symbol with high thigh stockings, garter, and all the vibrant trimmings that would turn heads and howl catcalls. Reeves is utterly wonderful riding the spectrum of Val’s multi-faceted manipulative personality to the point where feeling bad for Fin (Zachery Mooren, “Darkness Reigns”) becomes awkwardly odd since Fin is the wanted criminal here. Even though Mooren eventually sold the part of a wannabe tough guy, the actor looks more unsure of his performance than his most of the time scantily cladded costar, even with Mooren has dress down into just a kimono as well in a few tension-breaking scenes that didn’t really break the toned stride. Reeves and Mooren start up with ease, picking up where the pair of actors left off in Fradkin and Fratz’s 2018 “Electric Love,” joined by another fellow costar in Erik Griffin as a powerful mob boss with a kink for acting like a dog in one of Val’s masochistic whims. Along the line, other pivotal players associated with Fin and Val come into the mix, including John Kapelos (“The Shape of Water”), Sufe Bradshaw (“Star Trek”), Kyle Howard (“Robo Warriors”), and co-writer Victoria Fratz as Fin’s scheming girlfriend.

The idea of the playful, humanoid demon has always been more of an interesting concept for me personally because speaking frankly between man and demon, the two can be interchangeable.  Demons can con, pervert, steal, and kill under the will of their lordship and master or as a mere rogue still in servitude of doing evil bidding.  Man can accomplish very much the same malevolent behaviors and when you have a demon masquerading among mortals, what’s the difference?  Can one tell the difference? “Val” falls along the fringes of that same category except we’re not talking about any ordinary smooth talker with a devilish smile in human skin.  No.  We’re talking about the immense staying power of Misha Reeves’ slipping into something a little bit more comfortable and still be a force to be reckoned with as the blithefully frisky and seductive Val undercutting her prey’s sanity and soul.  Reeves carries the story up to the end as the titular character, but “Val” does downplay the question of Fin’s choice.  There’s a lack direct peril when the third act came down to brass tax and Fin had to make a decision. Fin was persuaded without a nail-biting ultimatum, a countdown, or a severe threat to him or someone he cares about and the motivation for the hapless lawbreaker to pave his own fate didn’t exact a sense of urgency. In fact, Val offers an unlimited number of perks with little risk and, I believe, we had to assume Fin was smart enough, a common motif throughout the film was Fin is this big, handsome chump, to understand giving up his soul would damn him for eternity. Though visually stimulating with a climax resembling The Last Supper with demons, the damned, and Fin all sitting at a table garnished with severed heads and an inferno hue, the culmination drops hard like a rock squashing that eager element of anticipation.

A bathing beauty of its genre, “Val” contends as a witty Mephistophelian comedy-horror. The demonic good time can now be enjoyed on a region free Blu-ray release from Dread Central’s home video label, Epic Pictures, distributed by MVD Visual. The not rated, 81-minute film is presented a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio with not really much to negatively critique on the image quality that’s quite sharp from the compression of a BD50. Keelan Carothers’ hard lit and red-hot neon glow of warm red-light district-like colors inarguably defines the distinct worlds of Fin and Val while flashbacks denote a slightly softer color reduction as a third environment. There’s good camera work here between in camera foreground and background focusing as well as delectable key lighting on certain medium-closeup shots that pact a punch. The English language 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track has dialogue clarity palpable enough for Misha Reeves’ sharp tongue and quirky humor. Ambient track slips a little in the depth and can blur character spatial relations but there’s plenty of range for a story that’s pretty much sole-centric. Mike Tran, Eric Mitchen and Robot Disco Puma provide the eclectic, synth-rock soundtrack that overwhelms with a booming LFE that leads to a bit crackling distortion during the decimation of decibels of maximum speaker output if not lowered, which then affects the dialogue. Options subtitles include an English SDH and Spanish. Special features include a making of Val featurette narrated by the filmmaking due Aaron Fradkin and Victoria Fratz, two of the pair’s short films – “The Ballerina” and “Happy Birthday,” and a Q&A from Popcorn Frights. Well, here we are at the end of the review and the question still stands of what path would you choose? Personally, I’d go with the sexy, quick-witted, Duke of Hell for a good time, the soul be damned, and you should go with “Val” too for it’s all well-made, well-acted, and well-told story.

“Val” is now available on Blu-ray and Prime Video! Check it out on Amazon.com

A Concentration Camp of Desecrated Flesh and Pure EVIL. “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy” reviewed (Blu-ray / 88 Films)

After nearly escaping war criminal charges for his role as Commander of a bordello operated Nazi concentration camp that mistreated and murdered multiple thousands of Jewish women, former office Conrad Starker meets his lover Lise Cohen, a former Jewish prisoner of his he fell fond of during their time of occupation, at the same barbaric camp now in vacant ruin. Alone together and wandering the grounds, Lise recalls her first arrival at the camp and how the then ruthless Starker made it his mission to break Lise of her guilt-based nihilism by exacting cruel torture upon her and those close to her in camp. Commander Starker’s direct reports, a dominatrix SS officer named Alma and a sordid Lt. Weissman, serve as his deviant and sadistic right arm, assisting him in striking fear into his new pet project. While troves of Jewish women are being raped by a slew of German soldiers on leave, as well as being tortured and even tested as a source of delicacy, Lise’s alleviated guilt turns her to play Starker’s game, making her become his own mistress, but Lise will never forget the camp atrocities at the hands of the Gestapo.

Never in my life would there be the time I salivated over the thought – dang, what a poignantly awesome title. Far from a generic, uninspired appellation that has completely captured my attention, lured me in like a fish by a dangling sex and exploitation worm, is the 1977 Italian-made Naziploitation “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy.” Understanding that the Cesare Canevari written-and-directed exploitation extravaganza is fabricated fiction from the mind of the Italian filmmaker sexploitation films such as “The Nude Princess” and “A Man for Emmanuelle,” and amongst other popular genres of that particular Italian era, there still lies a contrite underlayer deep inside my bowels for knowing “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy” is inspired by a baseline of truths – aka – the rounding up of Jewish people, forcing them into work and slavery in some sort of servitude compacity, and ending their lives as many were murdered in concentration or extermination camps by incinerations while still alive; all of which are displayed in graphic detail by Canevari in his film. Also known as the “Last Orgy of the Third Reich” and co-written with fellow “The Nude Princess” collaborator, Antonio Lucarella, no words can describe the depictions of Aryan abomination better than Canevari with a display of a wide-range of depravities from the master race in this shocking Cine Lu.Ce. production that Canevari produces.

Only two main characters span the narrative’s timeline between the active war and in the post-war clampdown of former Nazi officers.  We’re first introduced to Commander Conrad Starker (Andriano Micantoni aka Marc Loud, “LSD Flesh of Devil”) in an unofficial capacity as a voice over of a heated war crime trial rages over his driving around a small village before arriving at a dilapidated camp to meet with his beautiful lover, Lise Cohen, an introductory feature film role for then model, and presently a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Daniela Poggi (aka Daniela Levy, “Olga O’s Strange Story”).  From then on, the story goes back-and-forth between the camp horrors from most of Lise’s perspective and her present day melancholy strolling through the now empty camp.  Just between these two, a burdensome and destructive self-contained bubble ignites a prudent connection for a means to an end, whether be Commander Starker’s from merciless lust to love or Lise’s reversal of her exploitation to gain a survivalist’s upper hand by playing right into Micantoni’s sadistic impulses.  Micantoni and Poggi, despite their vast difference in age with Micantoni in his mid-50’s and Poggi in her early 20’s, have shuddering, knee-buckling chemistry in the more abhorrent scenes, one particular involving the fellatio act on a German Lugar.  There are other various scummy characters and if you like girls in uniform, the Doberman-loving Alma (“The Stepdaughter’s” Maristella Greco) is as beautiful as she is a gestapo femme fatale.  Greco’s domineering performance matches her male counterparts in enthusiasm but with a bonus side dish of sultry sadomasochism that can’t be forgotten as Alma whispers her viperous tongue into the camp Commander’s ear (while also sticking the blunt side of her whip into his rectum – ooph!).  “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy” is a perverse party with respectable size cast, including roles played by Fulvio Ricciardi (“Killing of the Flesh”), Vittorio Jorderi (“Gang War in Milan”), and Caterina Barbero (“Raptus”), enlarged by a grand amount of extras from German soldiers to the Jewish women creating the allusion of an inhuman love camp.

“Ilsa:  She Wolf of the SS,” “Love Camp 7,” “S.S. Experiment Camp,” “Nazi Love Camp 27,” “Achtung! The Desert Tigers,” S.S. Hell Camp.”   I’ve seen my fair share of Nazisploitation and, aside from Tinto Brass’s erotica-elegant “Salon Kitty,” Cesare Canevari’s wartime rape and ravager hails to be one of the more distressingly twisted and disturbingly beautiful entries in the exploitation subgenre.  For Canevari, every scene counts by not making every scene gratuitous.  Yes, “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy” has it’s preposterous moments where sex-crazed Nazis aggressively dominate unarmed, vulnerable women, especially when they decide to soak an unconscious naked woman in brandy and set her on fire to taste pork-like flesh; however, even in that instance of out of left field cannibalism, the atrocities are all in the name of progressing Germany in the wake of victory and to leave nothing to waste in Germany efficiency when utilizing inferior races, whether for labor or food, after Germany has conquered opposing forces.  Most of the second and third acts returns back to Earth with smaller scale plot devices surrounding Lise and Conrad locking horns in a battle of wills to extract fear from Lise’s, mostly nakeda nd suspended, fearless body.  “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy” can be said to be a film about challenging will power, enduring strength, and patience and for when the opportunity is right for the taking, strike while the iron is hot.  Or, for many, Canevari’s lopsided carnal lark can be viewed as a wicked sex fest reaped from the backs of other the people.   Canevari rides that thin line and never pushes the gratuitous full monty  down our throats.

For the first time on Blu-ray, anywhere, “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy” arrive onto a remastered in 2K transfer scan Blu-ray from UK distributor 88 Films who have crossed regions with one of their first North American releases!  Still currently banned in the UK, the stored film’s Blu-ray, remastered from the original print negatives, is region free and in full 1080 high definition, presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  The restoration is frankly flawless.  The composition of skin tones and textures and contrasting hue scheme offer a perceptible palate of every shadowy contrast and infinitesimal detail, especially in the impeccable facial diversities.  The release has offers two restored audio options:  An English dub 2.0 DTS-HD master audio and an Italian DTS-HD master audio with in-built English subtitles.  Both tracks share an ambient and soundtrack equality quality through the dual channel stereo; however the original Italian track is inherently smoother with the dialogue with accurately synched English subtitles. The Blu-ray snap case comes with reversible cover art, original poster art are in the inside along with a mini poster of the same art as one of two inserts. The other insert is a 21 page booklet brimming with stills, different country posters, and an essay from film historian Barry Foreshaw entitled Taking on the Censors: Italian Excess. All of this limited edition tangible goodness is housed under a limited edition cardboard slip cover with new art by illustrated Richard Davies. Inside the coding on the BD50 is also a work of art with audio commentaries by Italian film experts Tony Howarth and Nathaniel Thomason as well as a separate commentary with critic and author Samm Deighan. Special features also include an alternate Italian ending (rather an extension of the feature cut), an interview with Pierpaolo de Sanctis on Remembering Alberto Baldan Bembo the soundtrack composer, an interview with Luigi Cozzi in One Thing on His Mind in regards to director Cesare Canevari, and the English trailer. Movies like “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy” are completely in bad taste beyond a shadow of doubt. Luckily for me, and perhaps those reading this review, we’re a tasteless bunch of sleazy celluloid purveyors glad to see 88 Films praise Cesare Canevari’s most controversial and infamous film with a snazzy new Blu-ray treatment.

Don’t Miss Out on Owning 88 Films’ “The Gastapo’s Last Orgy” on Blu-ray!

EVIL is Only in Your Nightmares. Or is it? “Retribution” reviewed! (Severin / Blu-ray)

Severely depressed artist George Miller attempts suicide by jumping off from his apartment building.  During the exact same time, a low-end gangster is brutally killed by cruel loan sharks.  Being both born on Aril 1st and dying at the same time, the tortured spirit of the gangster possesses the meek artist’s body right before being resuscitated by EMTs.  After a long recovery filled with horrific nightmares, the affable artist returns to his apartment building where he’s welcomed by fellow tenants and an overly warm landlord.  Still plagued by nightmares that have seeped into his awake conscious state, George medicates himself to sleep but the nightmares continue as he sees himself using psychokinetic powers to kill random individuals with extreme malice.  The nightmares are so real he wakes up in a sweaty panic to find out that that exact person was killed the night before the very way it played in his dreams.  When George realizes the gangster has inhabited his body for revenge, he and his friends take measures to put an end to the vindictive carnage. 

Santa Maria.  Mother of God.  Help me!!!  That phrase, attached to the very last seconds before a gruesome death and announced blankly from fiery, dagger eyes, has forever been seared into the recessed corners of my eardrums as the death cry that echoes throughout Guy Magar’s 1987 gory and visceral possession identity crisis, “Retribution.”  Magar’s ultra-violent and super-chromatic film is the filmmaker’s grand inaugural entrance as a full-length director following up behind a string of director chaired television episodes, including episodes from “The A-Team,” “Blue Thunder,” and “The Powers of Matthew Star” that regularly contained quickly charged, action packed sequences.  The Egyptian-born director translates those intense moments of frenzied disturbance into his mean-spirited and unforgiving vindicator of a script cowritten with then first time screenwriter, Lee Wasserman.  Shot in Los Angeles, “Retribution” is a virtual tour of the city, using the streets of L.A. and real locations, such as the Don Hotel for George’s residence and the nearby House of Neon Art, as a lively, eclectic, and wallet-saving convenient giftwrap for the film’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde complexion that feels totally normal compared to L.A.’s divergent glamour.  Magar and Wasserman produce the film with Renegade and Unicorn Motion Pictures serving as the production companies and presented by Taurus Entertainment, formerly connected with United Artists. 

There are probably many actors that could been imagined for the role of George Miller, the suicidal artist plagued with visions of him committing murder, but it’s hard to imagine that venomous stare of complete satisfaction in madness spread across the face of anyone else other than Dennis Lipscomb.  No disrespect to the “Eyes of Fire” and “Wargames” actor but Lipscomb isn’t a chiseled-jawed and muscular leading man; in fact, Lipscomb is quite the opposite, but his range into mild-manner, all around nice guy George Miller into the lust for hatred and murderous revenge George Miller hangs on with complete chasmic permanence.  However, George’s love interest with the street working prostitute and fellow Don Hotel resident, Angel (Suzanne Snyder, “Return of the Living Dead II,” “Killer Klowns from Outer Space”), hardly ever seems natural in not only in the characters’ surreal age-yawning dalliance but also the chemistry looks and feels flat between Lipscomb and Snyder.  Magar and Wesserman neglect diving more into that bond between them but their enamored gleamy eyes for one another is apparent and strong without the context to back it up.  “The Dungeonmaster’s” Leslie Wing also is placed as a George Miller sympathetic advocate in her role as hospital psychologist Dr. Jennifer Curtis, but Dr. Curtis has more background to contend with in comparison to the suddenly conjured fondness from Angel as Curtis is a mental health professional caring for a suicidal patient from at his rock bottom worst to a complete positive turnaround in his mental transformation.  Curtis has more skin in the game with George’s supposed delusions of actually killing people in his nightmares as she defends not only George’s unique supernatural circumstances, but, in a way, herself as a licensed medical profession following HIPAA laws.  “Retribution” holds many dear and unforgettable characters that essentially captures the entire 1980’s spectrum of personalities and, even for a brief scene, the cast gives each role their all, including performances from Susan Peretz (“Dog Day Afternoon”), Clare Peck (“Teen Wolf”), Chris Caputo (“Ghost Warrior”), Danny Daniels (“Voodoo Blood Bath”), Ralph Manza (“Godzilla”), George Murdock (“The Sword and the Sorcerer”), Mike Muscat (“Hunter’s Blood”), and Hoyt Axton who doesn’t stray too far from his good intentions, but naïve, father role in “Gremlins” to being a detective tracking down suspect George Miller. 

I’m in total awe of Guy Magar’s “Retribution.” That opening scene of the suicide attempt with Alan Howarth’s building tension score drops not a single piece of dialogue yet opens with a gripping life and death situation, musically synced to progress toward a harrowing climax, and every frame is dripping with vintage 80’s appeal. Magar definitely knew what strings to pull to get the blood pumping, to get you excited, and to drop an excellent mystery right in the lap, or the middle of the street in this case with George Miller’s body after it flops off the car it just smashed onto. From that point on, “Retribution” peddles forward following the recovery, recouping, and ruination of George Miller’s life at the unseen hands of an exploiting, malevolent spirit that seeks to track down the top-tiered gangsters that shot and burned him alive and exact his own brand of harsh psychokinetic justice. Does it matter how George and this gangster, both born on the same day and both nearly died at the same time, came to fuse transcendently together? Don’t worry. Magar didn’t think it was important either and he’s right! “Retribution” snags all the attention for the sole purpose of the ride and that ride being a beautiful, color-coded daymare. The one aspect that ultimately retracts the buzzing high, stemmed from most 80’s films, is the sluggish love interest subplot between George and Angel stutter stepping into an awkward phase of interactions that hard stops much of core plot and though the plot is neurotically nonsensical to begin with, George and Angel’s desires for each other are about as cringeworthy as they come. Stick with the gore by honing in on Miller’s subconscious alter ego of a gangster serving his killers their just desserts via Kevin Yagher (“Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge”) and his highly effective special effects on a low end budget that, along with a brilliant showing of cinematography by Gary Thieltges, tips into the categorical likes of “The Evil Dead” or “The Exorcist.”

“Retribution” delivers a fervency unlike ever seen in one of the utmost, must-see, shamefully overlooked horrors films of the 80’s.  Now, with a deserved boost and in style, “Retribution” gets the royal restoration treatment with a jammed-packed and sleek 3-disc Blu-ray set from Severin Films and distributed by MVD Visual.  Disc one’s theatrical cut, clocking in at 107 minutes, comes from the recently discovered 35mm pre-print elements, shot on an Arriflex 35 BL3 per IMDB, and has been digitally scanned in 2K, presenting the region free film in 1080p Full High Definition inside the original widescreen 1:85:1 aspect ratio.  “Retribution’s” image pleasingly pops with fine delineating attention to the details that reach out to the point where they’re nearly tactile textures.  Every single setup of Robb Wilson King’s production designs are rich to begin with but are even figuratively injected with a smoother compression growth enhancing hormone, adding more layers of surface level details that personify and personalize the space.  Magar’s chromatically fluorescent vision is a literal tilt-a-whirl palette blast of phantasmagoria.  Disc tow is the extended Dutch video version that adds back in the extended seconds on the longer, gorier kill scenes.  The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 is the sole mix on the release and, honestly, sates the need with the dual channels.  You obviously don’t get the surround sound, which considering this release would have been ideal, but the stereo mix, as well as the dialogue track, is still full-bodied, identifiable, and spotless of blemishes.  John Carpenter understudy Alan Howarth scores his solo synth-laden story on tenterhooks with a tinge of a Miami Vice theme as well as setting tonal moods that add depth to character layers.  If you want the entire OST, you’re in luck!  The third disc is a compact disc of the entire soundtrack.  Special features includes over two hours of content with Severin exclusive looking back at the experiences with the late director Guy Magar and the ins-and-outs of making “Retribution” interviews with co-writer Les Wasserman Writing Wrongs, actress Leslie Wing Shock Therapy, actress Suzanne Snyder Angel’s Heart, actor Mike Muscat Santa Maria, Mother of God, Help Me!, soundtrack composer Alan Howarth Settling the Score, special effects artist John Eggett Visions of Vengeance, artist Barry Fahr The Art of Getting Even, production designer Robb Wilson King Living in Oblivion.  Other special features include Guy Magar’s student film “Bingo,” stills and poster galley, and the theatrical trailer all packaged under a cardboard slipcover and a reversible snap case cover. Severin Film’s “Retribution” release is a triumph, a proper regenerarcy of revenge cinema, with all the gory details being the star of the show.

Own this Amazing 3-Disc set of “Retribution” from Severin Films!

No Sam Raimi. No Bruce Campbell. Just the EVIL! “Evil Dead Trap” reviewed (Unearthed Films / Blu-ray)



Nami, a Japanese late night show host, is seeing her ratings dipping.  Though not in danger of losing her all-female produced show, Nami decides take her team on an investigation of a mysterious snuff tape that was mailed to her specifically.  Left for her is a bread crumb trail of directions to an abandoned military base, Nami and her crew explore the campus’s rundown structure, searching for evidence, a body, a story that they can televise.  Ignoring the dangerous presence around them, they dig deeper into the dilapidating labyrinth where they horrifying discover something waiting for them laid out in a cruel plan of deadly traps with a maniac pulling at all the strings. 

Bred out of a pedigree of pinkusploitations and a nation’s crisis of identity after the Second Great War, “Evil Dead Trap” is a greatly symbolized Japanese machination tale helmed by pink film director Toshiharu Ikeda (“Sex Hunter,” “Angel Guts:  Red Porno”) and penned by an equally historical pink film screenwriter and “Angel Guts” manga series creator Takashi Ishii (“Girl and the Wooden Horse Torture,” “Angel Guts” series).  Also known under its original Japanese title, “Shiryô no wana,” as well as, and my personal favorite, “Tokyo Snuff,” in Spain, “Evil Dead Trap’s” smorgasbord of rape, torture, and gory death naturally shocked viewers upon release and continues to do so as one of J-Horror’s branched out films that segued out from the brutal and depraved pink film inspired context into the new longstanding ghost genre we’ve seen over the last few decades with “Ringu” (“The Ring”) or “Ju-on” (“The Grudge”).  The production company Joy Pack Films, behind the 1980’s obscure Japan films, such as Genji Nakamura’s “Go For Broke” and Banmel Takahashi’s “Wolf,” houses the “Evil Dead Trap” from executive producer Tadao Masumizu.

If you recognize a couple cast members, or maybe just their naked bodies, then there’s something depraved about you!  With all kidding aside, but no seriously, if Rei (Hitomi Kobayashi) or Kondo (Masahiko Abe) look familiar, then you my friend are pink film aficionados as Kobayashi has starred in “Hard Petting” and “Young Girl Story” and Abe was in these pink film hits the “Pink Curtain” trilogy and “Female College Dorm Vs Nursing School Dormitory.”  If these faces didn’t touch you in any kind of sensual way, no worries, leading lady Miyuki Ono brings the star power.  The “Black Rain’s” Ono plays Nami, a go-getter television host/personality with her sights set on ramping up her late night show’s ratings, but also sucked into the posted snuff film’s darkest allure that’s personally calling her into to a precarious story lead.   Nami could also be a homage to one of screenwriter Takashi Ishii’s manga-inspired pink films entitled “Angel Guts: Nami” and the title might not be the only aspect paid honor to with that particular Nami written with a journalistic vocation drawn into and obsessed with a serial rapist’s attacks, making a striking parallel between the two stories that are nearly a decade apart. Eriko Nakagawa and Aya Katsurgagi fill out Nami’s investigating team as Rei and Mako. As a whole, the characters lack personality; Rei and Kondo tickle with relationship woes that are snuffed out before fruition, Rie’s timid innocence barely peaks through, and Nami and Mako’s thicker bond compared to the rest of the team is squashed to smithereens way before being suckled into note worthy tragedy. This late night show team has been reduced to slasher fodder and, honestly, I’m okay with that as we’re only here for the deadly traps. Noboru Mitani, Shinsuke Shimada, and Yûji Honma, as the mystery man looking for his brother, complete “Evil Dead Traps” casting.

“Evil Dead Trap” boasts a melting pot of inspirations, a mishmash of genres, and spins a nation’s split identity variation crowned in aberration. Diversely colorful neon-hazy lighting complimented by a Goblin-esque synth-rock soundtrack from Tomohiko Kira (“Shadow of the Wraith”), Toshiharu Ikeda shadows early Dario Argento inside and outside the popularity of the Italian giallo genre as the “Evil Dead Trap” murder-mystery horrors resemble more of a westernized slasher with a killer concealed behind a mask stalking a fringed, neglected compound in a conspicuous outfit. While the killer dons no hockey mask or snug in a mechanic’s jumpsuit, an equally domicile, yet more calculated, antagonist taunts more brains than brawns, especially with the severity of traps that seemingly float from out of nowhere. The fun is chiefly in the imagination of how the trap designs operate in the void of physics of a slasher fodder film so wipe clean the Jigsaw and the “Saw” films from your mind completely and relax to enjoy the outlandish kill scenes. Some of the kills are imperialistically inspired by Imperial Japan, that is, to blend the wartime nation’s atrocities with how the proud country wants to distance itself from that old-fashion, war-criminal, stoically perverse superstratum layer, but that’s were “Evil Dead Trap” pulls for most of the juicy parts as well as supplementing with Argento lighting, some, believe it or not, “Evil Dead” elements of that menacing presence bulldozing through the spiritual world, and an divergent climatic finale stuck to the narrative body that’s akin to pulling off the head of a doll and replacing it with T-Rex head’s. The uniformity quells under the pressure of how to end Nami’s and her attacker’s coda with pageantry weirdness that’s typical status quo Japanese cinema. Lots of symbolism, little modest explanation.

Get caught in “Evil Dead Trap” now back in print and on Blu-ray courtesy of Unearthed Films, distributed by MVD Visual, as part of the extreme label’s Unearthed Classics spine #5. The Blu-ray is presented in a matted 1.66:1 aspect ratio, a format rarely used in the States but widely used in other countries. Reverting to the 1.66:1 from Synapse’s 1.85:1 crop, Unearthed Films showcases more of the European feel, heightening that colorful vibrancy of the Argento-like schemes. Image quality has peaked on this transfer with natural grain with the 35mm stock, but details are not granularly sharp in an innate flaw of the time’s equipment and lighting. Shinichi Wakasa’s unobscured practical effects heed to the details and don’t necessary suffer the wrath of miniscule soft picture qualities when you’re impaling someone or birthing a slimy evil twin…you’ll see. Add in Ikeda’s wide range of shooting techniques, you’d think you’re watching Hitchcock or Raimi and the focus really lands there with the differently camera movements and techniques. The Japanese language single channel PCM audio fastens against that robust, vigorous quality to make “Evil Dead Trap’s” diverse range and depth that much more audibly striking, but there’s a good amount of silver lining in there being no damage albeit discernable, but not intrusive static to the audio files, dialogue is unobstructed and prominent, and the stellar synth-rock soundtrack nostalgically takes you back to when you first watched “Suspiria” or “Dawn of the Dead.” English subtitles are available but display with a few second delay which can be cumbersome if trying to keep up. Special features includes three commentaries that include director Toshiharu Ikeda and special effects supervisor Shinichi Wakasa, filmmaker Kurando Mitsutake (“Gun Woman”), and James Mudge of easternKicks. Plus, a Trappings of the Dead: Reflecting on the Japanese Cult Classic retrospect analysis from a Japanese film expert, Storyboards, Behind the scenes stills, promotional artwork, trailers, and a cardboard slipcover with phenomenal artwork. Highly recommend this atypical Japanese slasher, “Evil Dead Trap,” now on Blu-ray home video!

Own “Evil Dead Trap” on Blu-ray!

After Death is When Things Get Really EVIL! “One Dark Night” reviewed! (MVD Visual / Blu-ray)

Good girl Julie wants to join a The Sisters, a small high school club ran by three girls, one of who is the ex of Julie’s boyfriend.  Out to prove to herself and to The Sisters she’s willing to go the distance being fun and reckless, Julie subjects herself to The Sisters’ initiations, even the more cruel ones set by her boyfriend’s spiteful ex.  When the last initiation involves staying locked in overnight at a mausoleum, The Sisters will go beyond the limits in trying to scare her out of pledging, but the death of a bio-energy telekinetic practitioner with a cryptic occult past is freshly stowed away in one of the mausoleum’s coffin crypts and in death, he is more powerful and dangerous than when alive.  Trapped, Julie and The Sisters are terrorized by his power as he seeks to transfer his malevolent energy into one their bodily vessels. 

A PG rating back in the pre-1990 was also an abstract concept.  “Clash of the Titans.” “It’s Alive.”  “Jaws. “ “Prophecy” (the one with the spirit bear, not the Christopher Walken film).  These are a handful of titles that were MPAA rated PG approved, but contained nudity, bloody kills, and not to forget to mention some terrifying visuals that’d make anyone piss their pants.  “One Dark Knight” also fits into that category as the 1982 teen horror from “Friday the 13th Part VI:  Jason Lives!” director Tom McLoughlin set his sights toward a R-rating with the mindset that his detailed scenes of decay and rotting corpses and a face blistering the flesh to the skull would surely be slapped with the 17 years or older rating.  Low and behold, the ratings board thought otherwise, surprising McLoughlin and his co-writer Michael Hawes (“Family Reunion”) with a parental guidance rating that my 7 and 4 year old could sit in on without me fearing theater security or, even worse, the mind control hypnosis and repetitive nurturing elements of today’s movies and shows that don’t make a lick of common sense or brandish any artistic heart. McLoughlin’s ‘One Dark Night” has plenty of heart and plenty of floating dead bodies in this Comworld International Pictures production with “Out of the Dark” director Michael Schroeder producing and Thomas P. Johnson as executive producer.

Before hitting the sequel and remake circuit with “Psycho II” and “Body Snatchers,” Meg Tilly broke onto the scene as “One Dark Night’s” leading lady as the amiable Julie whose looking to shake her good girl image. The little sister of “Seed of Chucky” and “Bound” star Jennifer Tilly takes the role by the reins by undulating her fear and determination to do what The Sisters initiate her into completing. The Sisters is comprised of renowned voice actress and “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” costar Elizabeth Daily, Leslie Speights, and lead by Robin Evans as Carol, the spiteful and venomous ex-girlfriend of Julie’s now jock boyfriend (and Christopher Reeves lookalike in my opinion) in David Mason Daniels. You know what they say about love triangles they? They always lead to psychopathic, telekinetic psychics reeking havoc in a mortuary. Luckily for Tilly, Speight, Daily, Evans, and Daniels, psychopathic, telekinetic psychics are not real and neither is the person who plays the Karl Rhamarevich aka Raymar character! You see, the opening is the post-death scene of Raymar whose lying dead under a coroner’s white sheet along with six beautiful women stuffed into a corner closet in his oddly tatterdemalion apartment. The next time we see Raymar is in his casket, wide open, wide eyed with blue lightning summoning to animate the dead from the mortuary crypts; yet, Raymar is played by a dummy in the film created by Tom and Ellis Burman (“Star Trek” franchise in various capacity and “Scrooged”) and Bob Williams (“The Terminator”) who mold Raymar after the contours of Christopher Walken – second time Walken has popped up in this review! The more interesting casted parts, whose characters don’t do diddly squat in the film, is Adam West (“Batman”) as Raymar’s daughter (Melissa Newman) level-headed husband and The Predator himself, the late Kevin Peter Hall, in a minor appearance before becoming the man behind that one ugly son of a bitch mandible mask. You also actually get to see how tall Hall was in his prime.

“One Dark Night” flirts with being this strange horror that blends teen suspense and shenanigans with gothic horror with pseudo-science deviltry sushi wrapped into a Euro-horror roll. I kind of love it. I’m one of those horror fans who avoid trailers like the plague and try not to read synopses on the back cover, going into every viewing with complete ignorance, total unbias, and good attitude. I didn’t even know Meg Tilly was in “One Dark Night” for Christ sake! As the 90 minute runtime ticks down, I’m curious to where McLoughlin starts to take this film that doesn’t seem to quite get into the horror portion of Raymar’s show-stopping comeback. McLoughlin and Hawes hype up the love triangle with Carol’s bitter acrimony and Julie’s adolescent need to not be a one-note complexion all the while Steve desperately needs Carol to cease and desist any and all torturous hazing attempts, but there’s still this itty-bitty connection still tethered between the two that also causes Steve to two-time his new, more benevolent, girlfriend. In the end, I can confidently say that Steve is a good dude, a guy who double downs on a girl like Julie who can’t seem to get it through her thick skull that she doesn’t need to prove anything to three dimwits with sheeny club bomber jackets. I can tell you who isn’t a stand up guy – Raymar. Kudos to McLoughlin and his crew for creating one evil son of a bitch villain without there ever being a palpable proverbial man behind the mask to bounce off a projection of fear and contention. The evil Raymar practice was so intensely evil it was beyond our dimensional comprehension and broke the mold of death with the abilities to animating the dead among other things. “One Dark Night’s” slow start leads to a not to be forgotten survival terror against an army of the harnessed dead.

Raymar isn’t the only thing brought back from the dead, but also “One Dark Night” as MVD Visual, under the MVD Rewind Collection, strike a deal with Code Red to utilize their OOP transfer and bonus materials for a new re-release Blu-ray hitting retail shelves this Tuesday, August 24th! The 1080p high definition transfer is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio speckled nicely with natural, pleasant looking reel grain. Like the Code Red special edition release, plenty of details shine through the delicate rendering that can be image wispy at times. Loads of superficial damage – frame scratches, edge flare ups, rough editing cuts, smudges – can’t go unnoticed, but these blemishes don’t hinder much as the scenes are more transitional during the setup to the big mortuary finale. What differs from Code Red’s DTS-HD 2.0 mix is thee English language LPCM 2.0 mono mix that still lightly treads with subdued effect, much like the Code Red release. Dialogue can sound muffled with popping landing just under the surface and bubbling up during dialogue scenes. Still, the audio track stands it’s ground by clearly rendering every dialogue, effect, and soundtrack without question. English subtitles are also available. You want bonus features? You got’em! Interviews with director Tom McLoughlin, actress Elizabeth Daily, actress Nancy Mott, cinematographer Hal Trussell, production designer Craig Stearns, producer Michael Schroeder, and special effects crew member Paul Clemens are all individualized for maximum recollection tidbits and factoids. There’s also audio commentaries by McLoughlin and Schroeder as well as McLoughlin and co-writer Michael Hawes. Plus, we also graced with McLoughlin’s director’s cut, a standard definition, unfinished, work print version in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio that shows the director’s true take on the narrative before producers ultimately decided to go another route…behind his back nonetheless. Behind-the-scenes footage, Paul Clemens photo gallery, and original theatrical trailer round out the disc bonus content while the physical release comes with a retro-take card board slipcover, reversible cover art, and a collectible mini poster inside the case liner. If you’re a fan of Euro-horror, “One Dark Night” embodies the very soul of the Lucio Fulci and Michele Saovi supernatural archetype sewn seamlessly into an inescapable and hopeless dance with the gnarly energies of the stoic dead.

Pre-order “One Dark Night” on Blu-ray at Amazon.com!